“Shantaram”, by Gregory David Roberts

Overall Summary: 4.5/5

Read it, or save your time?  Loosely based on Roberts’ own life, Roberts spins an immersive and masterful tale that will blow your mind.   Epic in both scope and length, it is just shy of 1,000 pages – real pages, not iPhone pages, so save it for Winter when you can really commit.

What’s it about?  In 1980, Gregory David Roberts is serving a 19-year sentence for robbery in Australia when he breaks out of prison and flees to India, where he is a wanted fugitive for almost a decade before being captured and extradited back to Australia.

Upon arrival in India via a stolen passport, he is nicknamed “Linbaba” by a friendly and enthusiastic taxi driver, Prabakar,  who becomes his close friend and ally.  He takes up residence in an overcrowded slum where he learns Marathi and Hindi, and starts the slum’s first free health clinic, earning the respect and acceptance of his neighbors.  As the tale continues, he meets Khader Khan, head of the local Mafia, who becomes a father-figure for the soul searching Greg.

As Greg falls more in love with India, you will be taken past the slums into Leper villages, posh 5-Star Hotels, torturous prisons, and a dark underground world filled with philosophizing mafia thugs and guerilla fighters.

Reviewer’s Note:  There is a great deal of debate as to where fact meets fiction, but it is indisputable that at least some of it is true, which is comforting because otherwise it would have felt too farfetched and less enjoyable as a result.  Also, looks like Apple bought the rights for a TV series adaptation, so stay tuned.

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